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A little piece of heaven on Bristol Harbor

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With 47 years of marriage under their belts, Keith and Susan Maloney call themselves “a good tag team.” Keith’s career with retailer Lord & Taylor had taken the couple and their family around the country, spending their longest tenure in Westport, Connecticut. So when the time came to settle into post-career life, the world was their oyster. “We traveled from Maine to Florida and visited every coastal town,” says Susan. The couple says they were searching for a “New England-type town” that offered both history and charm with the tranquility of being on the water.

The Maloneys were in no particular hurry; willing to wait to find the idyllic zip code to call home. “As serendipity would have it, we were invited to a party on Poppasquash Road,” says Susan. “The sun went down, the lights went on the Mount Hope Bridge, we looked at each other and said, ‘I think we found our town,’ and never looked back.”

“Two weeks later we bought the land,” says Keith, picking up where Susan leaves off (they have a tendency to do so). The land the couple discovered once belonged to one of Bristol’s most prominent residents, the Van Wickle family, best known for their sprawling estate, Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum. Both Keith and Susan are proud of being the owners of a part of Bristol history and wanted to build a home there to take advantage of all the beauty that part of town offers. As the deciduous trees that mark the property line continue to lose the last of their leaves this month, the historic estate will come into view.

Having lived in a variety of style of homes, from a farmhouse dating back to 1785 to a traditional Colonial, the two have cultivated a synchronous design aesthetic. “We had a very clear vision and one of the great things we laugh about is we basically come from the same place in our appreciation for style and design,” explains Keith. “The classic New England shingled home was something we were very comfortable with.”

The two turned to George Bennett of Blount Bennett Architects based in East Providence to bring their vision to reality – but they didn’t exactly approach George empty handed. “I’m going to give my wife some credit here,” says Keith. “She has a really good eye. It was her driving force.” Together George and Susan collaborated, along with builder Eric Johnson of Middletown’s Oldport Homes, on a four-bedroom home that was comfortable, captured the heart of coastal living and capitalized on panoramic views of Narragansett Bay.

“We wanted a lot of windows; a lot of light,” says Keith. And for Susan, a spacious kitchen that was warm and welcoming was non-negotiable. “My mother always, always said, ‘Your best friends always end up in the kitchen.’” The space includes an oversized island for easy entertaining, which is especially helpful when their three children and their families spend time together at Homeport, the name they christened the house.

Though traditional furnishings are found throughout (including a Queen Anne tea table, Windsor chairs, camelback sofa and a lowboy chest), nautical details ensure you never forget you’re in a home just steps from the water. As soon as guests enter, they are greeted by a compass rose wood inlay and hand-carved wooden ship model hulls can be found strategically placed to catch the eye. Both are decidedly apropos considering the Herreshoff Marine Museum and America’s Cup Hall of Fame (an arm of the museum) are just a short walk from Homeport.

Complementary shades of blues and greens were chosen for the interior. “Sea glass colors,” notes Susan. She also had another design suggestion: beadboard. “I used a lot of beadboard for a nautical flair,” Susan says. She extended the look into the kitchen, even to the backsplash, where George at first had his doubts, but soon saw the look created a cohesive design element.

“We had a good time, not that there weren’t moments where we were stressed,” says Keith with a laugh. “Overall it was a wonderful experience,” reiterates Susan.

Susan and Keith worked with George to ensure the master bedroom faces west so that when the two wake in the morning, Bristol Harbor beckons. A tray ceiling – Susan’s idea – adds the illusion of auxiliary height along with architectural interest in the room, while French doors lead out to a deck the couple says is the best vantage point for star gazing. Homeport was the first of four homes on the road that architecturally complement one another (each were created by the same builder/architect duo). “We own in common 3/4 of an acre on the water and we have our own little boathouse and a beautiful dock built just 7 years ago, a beach
and Adirondack chairs,” says Susan. The home is everything they ever wanted, and as it turns out, so is Bristol. Both Susan and Keith say they are wild about the Bristol community (as is their resident golden retriever, Fenway). The warm people, quaint atmosphere and rich history are just some of the reasons they cite for falling for America’s Most Patriotic Town. “Every day I am thankful,” says Susan. “It’s a little piece of heaven.”